Fortunately I was fat when I was 21

This is a fairly tough target:

If you can’t fit into the trousers you wore at 21-years-old, you are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, a professor has warned.

Presenting data to a leading diabetes conference, Professor Roy Taylor from Newcastle University said that people’s waist should be the same size as it was when they were 21. If they could no longer fit into the same-sized trousers, they were “carrying too much fat”, he said.

The average waistline for men in England is 38.5in, according to the latest NHS Digital figures from 2019, up from 36.7in in 1993.

And among men aged 16 to 24 years old, the average trouser size was 34in in 2019, rising to to 39.6in among 45 to 54-year-olds.

I am, recently, below that average 21 year old average size and I’m 6 foot so it’s not just because I’m small all over. But the effort it takes to get there is substantial (I’m doing it through exercise and the why is blood pressure, not diabetes). Not in the slightest surprised that most aren’t.

This could in fact be counterproductive. Actually spelling out how thin you’ve actually got to be in order to avoid Type II could well lead to more thinking, well, fuck it.

28 thoughts on “Fortunately I was fat when I was 21”

  1. I have inherited a propensity to shrink, I was 5’11+3/4″ when I was 21, I’m 5’9 now, with the result that my BMI has gone up and I have widened even if I hadn’t put on weight.

  2. Harry Haddock's Ghost

    Fuck that. I was 6′ with a waist of 28″ and needed a belt.

    But then it was 1991 and I was going to a lot of house clubs and getting a lot of “exercise”

  3. “Actually spelling out how thin you’ve actually got to be in order to avoid Type II could well lead to more thinking, well, fuck it.”

    Don’t worry… The way this type of *ahem* bold exclamations go, there’ll be one stating that having too low a BMI at advancing age is actually unhealthy as well.
    Health Journalism Demands It.

  4. Well, of course you’re at risk of Type II diabetes.
    And cancer.
    And the flu
    And heart attacks.
    And everything else.

    Everybody is.

    The headline might be more informative if it said something like “an extra three inches triples your risk of X”

  5. I was 34in waist from 16ish to 50odd, up to 38 at 55, then over five months down to 30, caused by the same illness that gave me diabetes. I am of course morally superior now to fat people. And type IIs.

  6. I would have thought that not having the same sized waist as you had at 21 in later life would be close to universal. My waist was 32″ at twenty one, 38″ at 54 when I was diagnosed as type 2 diabetic. Did plenty of exercise as part of my treatment for it and now, at 63, my waist is 32″ again. I’m not sure what that proves, I’m only a sample of one.

  7. Bloke in North Dorset

    I’ve just stopped wearing my old Army denims from when I left in ’90 aged 34, they the last pair has finally fallen apart.

    The only times I’ve ever got close to my weight as a 21-year-old was after a gruelling 6 week promotion course, during the Falklands war and when I did the London marathon. I usually put a few Kgs on over summer and then drop them again over winter and I’m quite content with my weight being at the top end of the meaningless “healthy” range of the BMI chart.

    More precisely, I ain’t doing any of the above to get even close to my weight as a 21-year-old.

  8. My Dad got very sick recently. One thing that saved him was that he had enough fat to go two weeks without eating. A scrawny person would have struggled not eating for two weeks.

    It’s a dirty secret that cannot be said, but the slightly “overweight” live longer than the skinny.

  9. Bloody hell! When I was 20 I had a 24″ waist (OK: breathing in, but still…) I don’t remember 21 but I was wearing the same pairs of trousers. These days it’s 28″ and I refuse to believe that puts me at risk of type2 diabetes.
    Anyhow I just cannot find any trousers that small these days: mostly it’s a pair with a 30″ waist and a belt.

  10. Weight loss with only exercise or dieting alone is the hard way. Better combined, they you get faster weight loss (more than the sum of the parts IMO).

    But for people of a certain age it’s always going to be hard work, the yoof have absolutely no idea what’s waiting for them…

  11. Buggered if I know what my waist was at 21, or indeed what it is now. Though I certainly don’t have any trousers that are over half a century old.

    Still, I cook for myself. And I have to go to the bother of buying the ingredients too. So this does tend to diminish the tendency to overeat.

  12. The reason to stay in shape is to be ready for any trouble that might come your way.

    As Enid Blyton used to say–you simply never know.

  13. At 21 28 inch waist. Peaked at 34 with belt, currently 32. None of that’s due to fat because I don’t have any. It’s the general muscle building most people go through. At 21 you’ve just finished growing so unless you’re a sports fanatic you haven’t acquired your adult muscle mass. Later, as life becomes less strenuous, you lose some of it.
    It would help if the so called experts didn’t treat the entire population is if they were all fucking desk jockies. Most people aren’t. A few pounds above what they believe is right can be an advantage. I’ve done a lot of heavy lifting in my life. An extra three stone would have been welcome. It’s all about leverage. If you’re lifting, the more you weigh relative to what you’re lifting the less the effort. So if that extra 3 stone brought a slight risk of Type 2 it’d be more than compensated by 40 years of an easier life & less risk of back problems. And this applies to almost anything doesn’t involve waving a pen around a sheet of paper or a mouse round a mousemat. Even carrying shopping from the car to the kitchen.

  14. “having too low a BMI at advancing age is actually unhealthy as well”: it is. For people who take observational data seriously: the plot for danger of death versus BMI has a minimum for the “overweight”. It’s a lousy idea to be grossly obese or “underweight”. My memory is that if you take a ruler and draw a horizontal from the underweight/normal boundary it intercepts the curve again part way through the “obese” range, so being a little bit obese is no worse than being at the low end of being “normal”.

    What this amounts to is that the boundaries that have been adopted are bollocks. Surprise, surprise. Remember: when I have asked doctors what they mean by “normal” – do they mean ‘desirable’ or ‘common’ – I have received startled looks, allowing me to infer that none of the buggers has ever reflected on what they mean by “normal”.

    As for Type II: there the threshold was effectively adjusted downward a few years ago – whether wisely or not I don’t know. Some medics think the current threshold for HbA1c too low. The threshold is measured in two different units: for the unit favoured in the US anything over 6.5% is Type II. However a 2013 paper reports “The main predefined analysis was the comparison of cases and controls for proportion of patients with each HbA1c class (<6.5%, 6.5-7.4%, 7.5-8.4% and ≥8.5%). During a mean follow-up of 5.7 ± 3.5 years, 427 deaths were recorded. The lowest risk of death was observed in the HbA1c 6.5-7.4% category. Hey ho.

    Here's a revealing link:

  15. Age 21 is pushing it. Age 25 is feasible.

    To be fair I’ve read the bloke’s book and the argument is that Type Two kicks in due to fat around the pancreas. If you are naturally skinny you can end up with enough fat there to do damage even if your BMI is in the OK range. Years ago they managed to get it reversed by sticking people on a strict diet for a couple of months and losing a couple of stone. It looks like the latest version is doing it in bouts of 2 weeks at a time – presumably because 8 weeks in one go is too much for most people.

  16. Also from memory, a better predictor of health than BMI was to divide your height by your waist size.

    Anywhere between 2-3 was fine. Outside that and you could have problems.

  17. As long as they are consistent it doesn’t matter, it’s the ratio that’s important.

    6ft = 72″ = 182.88cm (let’s call it 183cm)
    34″ = 86.36cm (let’s call it 86cm)

    72/34 = 2.12
    183/86 = 2.13

    OTOH 5’8″/36″ = 1.89 so I need to lose the gut.

  18. Cynic

    Intuitively, height versus waist circumference (one dimension versus two) seems more daft that BMI (2 dimensions versus 3)? I’m probably missing something.

  19. I had a long conversation with an expert on this once. Can’t remember the final answer but it’s along the lines of sure, 3 dimensions, but as it happens humans and weight seem to work around a 2.2, 2.3 or something. Weird, but summat like arms and legs and skull etc don;t get fat at some rate or something.

  20. I think the argument was that the big risk is from visceral fat and height/waist ratio is a decent proxy. It also has the advantage that it’s easy to measure.

  21. @ Tim
    That is why the original formula was weight divided by height^2.5
    Some lazy and stupid individuals decided that was too much like hard work so BMI was defined as weight divided by height^2 and consequently it is rubbish.
    It is such ridiculous rubbish that we never even get on to discussing the different shapes that were used to categorise people – ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph – when I was young so that doctors could say “this guy is broad-shouldered and his optimum weight is going to be higher than that pigeon-chested guy over there although they are the same height (the fittest guy I knew at uni was 1” shorter than I and sweated down to just over 20% heavier).

  22. More people need to read about the Obesity Paradox and fewer “researchers” need to stop trying to disprove it because it contradicts their simistic judgemental biases.

  23. In some ways a larger waste can be an advantage

    From 16 to 40 I had a 27″ waist and 38″ chest and it was difficult to buy suitable suits / trousers. Plenty of children’s trousers in that size, but they didn’t fit adult body

    I’m now 57 with 32″ waist, 38″ chest and plenty of trousers in that size

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